The Virginia Senate Finance Committee meets in Staunton Thursday and Friday for a two-day retreat and discussion of Virginia's fiscal health.
While this past week offered optimism on recent Virginia revenue collections, area state legislators are guarded about what the news means for state funding for Virginia local governments and schools.
This week will offer the legislators a chance to further dig into the upcoming budget. The Senate Finance Committee will come to Staunton on Thursday for a two-day retreat, while the House Appropriations and Finance committees will meet early in the week in Abingdon.
The news from Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday is that state revenue collections are up 4.4 percent in October compared to 2013, and 6.1 percent for the fiscal year compared to 2013.
That is good news, because the earlier forecast was a 2.9 percent increase in state revenue for the fiscal year. Still, McAuliffe tempered expectations in his official comments, saying he is "cautiously optimistic as much uncertainty still exists."
McAuliffe also spoke of a familiar theme. The governor said he remains focused on diversifying and building a new Virginia economy. During his first year in office, McAuliffe has repeatedly said Virginia must change an economy that has heavily depended on federal government employment and contracts. Federal sequestration has impacted Virginia hard.
Del. Steve Landes, a member of House Appropriations, and Sen. Emmett Hanger, a member of Senate Finance, are pleased to see the upward state revenue trend.
Hanger, R-Mount Solon, in particular, said he hopes "the trend continues.'' And he said he is pleased that the revenues are exceeding projections.
Landes, R-Weyers Cave, said his enthusiasm is tempered by the knowledge that a portion of the increased revenues must go to Virginia's Rainy Day Fund and to pay for transportation.
"Once you back those out, the numbers are not as rosy,'' he said. Landes is eager to see what happens with retail sales in Virginia in late November and in December, and with December income tax collections.
"People who withhold in the upper tax bracket do quarterly payments and corporations declare quarterly dividends,'' said Landes. The delegate believes he will have a clearer picture of the overall revenue picture in just over a month.
Local governments are proceeding with caution as they prepare to work on the 2015-16 budget.
Augusta County Administrator Pat Coffield will approach the upcoming budget planning in a frugal manner. Coffield said he is also eager to see how big the December revenue collection is across the state.
But the county administrator is sobered by the news Augusta County may not receive a fourth-quarter per diem payment from the Virginia Department of Corrections for state prisoners it houses at Middle River Regional Jail in Verona.
Del. Dickie Bell, R-Staunton, has a guarded take on the recent revenue news because of all the recent cuts in the state budget and the reliance on the Rainy Day Fund to help balance it.
"There is enough uncertainty and lack of momentum that you have to be careful,'' Bell said.